The Realtors, Airbnb and sundry like-minded oligarchs who govern San Francisco through their avatar Mayor Ed Lee have a lot riding on the supervisorial races. If progressives win three races, our sad, misunderstood wealthy may lose control of the legislative branch for a decade.
Yet, the moderate in District 9 is Joshua Arce, one of the weakest candidates since Starchild. I’d have thought that Mayor Lee’s allies would have scrounged up a more compelling vehicle for their hopes and dreams. Arce’s public campaign strikes me as half-baked maneuvers to claim the singular mantle of being all things to all people.
For example, Arce held a presser with Assemblyman David Chiu and BART Director Nick Josefowitz (aka Tiny Malcolm Gladwell) to “announce” a plan for a new BART station at 30th and Mission. It’s not clear the announcement is more than a notion. Even if everyone loved the idea and Arce for it, nothing would happen during the entirety of Arce’s potential term. If you’re going to grandstand on a big idea, maybe pick something you can accomplish in your first term.
He’s straddling both sides of the police as well, which chafes. The Police Officer’s Association, which believes that systemic racism and excessive force in San Francisco Police Department can best be improved by unwavering denial, printed a tone-deaf joke belittling Black Lives Matter in the union newsletter (like a blog, on paper). Arce posted on social media that the newsletter was “unacceptable” and that “we need to see full support [from the POA] for” the reforms advocated by Supervisor Malia Cohen.
Stern words from Arce — except that last July, when he was on the Democratic Central Committee, he passed an amendment to a resolution supporting the Public Defender’s plan to reform the Police Department. Arce’s amendment turned the resolution from one critical of the SFPD to one supportive of it. Moreover, the POA gave $82,500 to an independent expenditure committee backing Arce. So Arce expresses feigned outrage about the POA, while simultaneously benefitting from largesse by the POA independent expenditure committee, which is IN NO WAY related to his votes on their behalf.
Arce is using progressive messages about affordable housing, tenants, immigrants and low-wage workers. If you added “abolish private property,” his website could almost be mistaken for the Peace and Freedom Party. Despite progressive messaging, he’s considered moderate because of his endorsements: Gavin Newsom, Mayor Lee’s “Baldie No. 2” Tony Winnicker, building trades unions, the head of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, the moderate slate for the DCCC and so on. Also a self-employed dog walker who had $500 to give.
The San Francisco political spectrum is unlike the national. Everyone supports abortion and gay marriage. Our moderates are not fiscally conservative. They’re eager to chuck money out the window, provided a well-connected donor gets rich off of it. Our spectrum is defined by land use, public budgets and law and order. Moderates believe the role of government is to assist the market to solve problems. Progressives believe the role of government is to protect vulnerable people from the market.
Progressives have succeeded sufficiently at framing the debate that moderates feel obligated to run as progressives “who get things done” or “will provide real leadership” or a third vacuous slogan. Then, once elected, they govern by caving in to corporations. They’re all premature capitulation in negotiations with the rich and powerful, yet Machiavellian ruthlessness toward the vulnerable. They’re Wilson Fisk in the streets and Wormtail in the suites.
Arce is just pretending otherwise, but doing a soft job of it.
I support Hillary Ronen in District 9 because obviously. If Joel Engardio can use space in the Examiner to hype his supervisorial campaign, and Willie Brown can use his Chronicle column to maintain his graft operation, I can use my tiny square of the fourth estate to say nice things about my friends. Unlike Engardio or Brown, I get no benefit other than hugs and high-fives for doing so.
Nato Green is a San Francisco-based comedian and write @natogreen. See him interrupt the movies at Riffer’s Delight at the Alamo Drafthouse on Wednesday, Aug. 24.